Accuracy in Media

Contrary to the general statement size does actually matter. There are many things that are wholly enjoyable, even desirable, in small quantities. This does not mean that the wider application of those same things is something we should immediately leap to do. Missing this is the bias in a piece at Vice.

The leap is made from one city being car-free to perhaps all cities should be car-free. After all, if that one city is lovely and environmentally pure, then it just goes to show that we all can be, right? That Vice has some 6 million subscribers on YouTube, and the magazine gets to near a million, shows how far such bias reaches.

For here’s the little bit that isn’t pointed out. “A city without cars is already here, and it’s idyllic” gives an accurate flavor of the piece. They do at least match the headline to the slant. “In an increasingly environmentally unstable world, there’s a sense that car-owning city dwellers across the globe have to start thinking very seriously about just how important driving is to them.” We can see where that’s going. If they can give up their cars then why are we all being so selfish and holding on to ours?

Now, the bit that’s being left out about this paradise of greenery. Ljubljana, Slovenia, is a small place, as they mention. Only 300,000 people in the city. In fact, the entire country has a population close to that of Manhattan. But the car free zone is really, really small. In fact, according to the European Union’s announcement that this wondrous status makes it a “European Green Capital” that car free zone is 100,000 meters square. Or that’s 10 hectares, about 25 acres.

Size does in fact matter. That’s about 1/30th of the size of Central Park in that Manhattan already mentioned. For international readers, some 10% of the size of Hyde Park in London. Or even, about 10% of the size of the National Mall in Washington D.C. – smaller than the area the crowd for Martin Luther King’s great speech covered.

Well, yes, we can all think that having car-free areas of that sort of size would be an addition to our urban environments. In fact, we all think that so strongly that we already do have car-free zones of that size and larger in our urban environments. But, as should be obvious, that we think that having such small areas so free means we now want to ban all cars from all cities is ludicrous.

Size really does matter. We can’t run society the same way we run families, 300 million people is a different problem from 300,000 and that Ljubljana has a 25-acre pedestrian-only zone doesn’t mean that Los Angeles would work without cars – contrary to what Vice is trying to tell us.

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